The Takeover

The book begins with a prologue: it’s March 2010 and the protests of Manchester United fans against their club’s American owners, the Glazer family, have reached new heights as David Beckham picks up a green-and-gold scarf while walking off the Old Trafford pitch. Tehsin recalls a telephone conversation with Joel Glazer at that very moment. The book rewinds back to the tail-end of 2004 when the Glazers’ first bid to buy the club is rebuffed by the United board. By January 2005, he serendipitously finds himself on the Glazers’ payroll quietly plotting their second attempt. The eventual takeover in May becomes a huge worldwide media event, driven by unprecedented fans’ furore at the prospect of a secretive American family at the club’s helm and the debt they leveraged to get there. By the early summer Tehsin guides the Glazers through their first visit to Old Trafford and their one and only media interview.

2005 / 06 Season

Manchester United fans’ protests have subsided and the Glazers attend their first game at Old Trafford and are even asked to sign autographs. Tehsin visits the Glazers in Palm Beach, battered by the onset of Hurricane Katrina, but assured by the new owners’ resolve. The media, though, thinks the Glazers may have bought a pup: by the autumn Manchester United have lost their principal sponsor, their club captain has stormed out and the club has been dumped out of the Champions League. The media cries 'crisis' but the Glazers remain phlegmatic and stand firm providing unequivocal support to an embattled Sir Alex Ferguson. “Marathon not a sprint” is the refrain to incredulous reporters. By the New Year the club have won their first trophy in three years, have announced a record breaking shirt sponsorship deal and can look forward to record revenues from an expanded stadium. This paves the way for a successful refinancing lauded by the financial community.

2006 / 07 Season

The season starts quietly while the team keep winning. Off the pitch top clubs can look forward to a bumper Premier League television deal. The Glazers maintain their counsel in contrast to their fellow Americans owners at Liverpool FC and Aston Villa. Tehsin Nayani gets to go in-house working full-time for the Glazers; his first duty the thankless task to defend a sharp hike in season ticket prices. But the controversy quickly fades as the team cruises to a first league title in four years, celebrated in style in London, and the Glazers support the manager with a record spending spree. However, not long after the champagne bubbles evaporate the first of a series of rumours appear speculating that the American family may want out, fuelled by talk of a further refinancing of the debt, eventually pulled at the last minute as the global credit crunch takes hold.

2007 / 08 Season

A season steeped in history for the club begins modestly on the pitch and is still mired by fans’ lingering resentment at the ticket price rise. With the refinancing scuppered, the Glazer family step up their transformation of Manchester United’s commercial operation including a swanky new office in London’s Pall Mall. This paves the way for record revenues capitalising on the club’s 333 million supporters worldwide. The start of 2008 represents the fiftieth anniversary of the Munich air disaster which comes to unite all associated with the club. An inspired team become a winning machine and gallop to a successive Premier League triumph. In Moscow the team squeeze out an emotionally charged European Cup victory, 40 years after Sir Matt Busby’s first triumph, and the club’s hierarchy parties into the brightness of the next day. But the aftermath of victory proves bitter sweet; the open-top bus parade is cancelled and rumours grow that Cristiano Ronaldo wants out. While profits break new records, so too does the club’s burgeoning debt. But on a pre-season tour in South Africa, United’s overseas popularity provides some relief to the UK media pressure cooker.

2008 / 09 Season

By 2008 Manchester United's commercial pipeline is delivering high-margin riches, although the club’s wealth is potentially dwarfed by the prospect of a resurgent Manchester City under sovereign wealthy owners. The credit crunch cripples the shirt sponsor AIG, which is bailed out by the US taxpayer. An opportunity rather than threat for a cocksure ownership which immediately launches an innovative plan to secure a new sponsor, whose sales execs can point to another title winning team. In Rome United square up for a successive Champions League final but fall to a superior Barcelona. The celebration party turns into a wake. But off the field, the show must go on and within weeks Manchester United announces a new £80 million shirt deal with Aon, although news of the inevitable departure of Ronaldo for the same money will come to haunt the club as fans demand the Glazers to splash the cash. In Asia, a bomb in Jakarta notwithstanding, the team play out to sell-out stadia on the pre-season tour, while thousands of fans besiege the players and entourage.

2009 / 10 Season

A season that will become synonymous with controversy and supporter dissent. The Glazers decide to launch a corporate bond by publishing a ‘warts ‘n all’ prospectus prompting alarm and consternation among fans and the media alike. United lose to Leeds in the FA Cup and must fight for their lives against City in the Carling Cup. The bond proves a success among financiers, is twice oversubscribed, but among supporters there is outrage, which evolves into a ‘green-and-gold’ movement designed to prise the club away from the American owners. Tehsin faces up to a phoney PR war with the Red Knights, a cabal of senior City millionaires plotting to make the Glazers an offer they can’t refuse for the club. ‘The club is not for sale’ he protests to deaf ears as the story’s global resonance takes hold. On the pitch a Carling Cup win in front of a poisonous Wembley crowd fails to assuage concerns. The club’s pre-season tour in North America gives some respite, but discord rumbles on, especially whether the Glazers are going to use the Ronaldo money to pay down the debt.

Epilogue

The start of the 2010 / 11 season marks Tehsin Nayani’s final months with the Glazers and Manchester United: enough time to endure further controversy as star striker Wayne Rooney wants out, his camp briefing ‘it’s the Glazers’ fault’. But Tehsin can bow out satisfied his job is done: at last, the PIK note, the controversial lump of debt has been paid down. He signs off with Joel Glazer shortly after his final press briefing.